All American Quarter Horse Congress: October 9

AQHA Professional Horseman Jon Barry explains longe-line classes as part of the Congress demonstration series.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

An eager crowd gathered October 9 to learn about longe-line classes.

AQHA Professional Horseman Jon Barry explained the class for western pleasure and hunter under saddle that the National Snaffle Bit Association pioneered in the mid-1990s.

“The purpose of NSBA longe-line classes is to evaluate how well a prospect might perform in the future,” Jon said. “Before you enter or show in the class, read the rulebook. The class is judged on movement, structure and manners.”

Jon also explained class procedures and gave tips on training, showing and choosing longe-line prospects.

“The class is something fun for breeders to do with their horses before they start riding them,” he said.

The clinic was part of the annual Congress lecture/demonstration series.

More of Jon’s tips:

  • Enter the class by walking straight to the judge so they can see whether he walks straight and then set up as best you can.
  • Don’t look backward and beg your horse to jog. Look forward and the horse will follow you.
  • As you’re raising yearlings at home, don’t let them chew or push on you.
  • The first impression of a pretty, well-fitted horse can make a positive impact on the conformation score, which includes appearance.
  • Keep in mind your horse’s age and avoid drilling yearlings like show horses.
  • The class allows for a warm-up walk. Be easy at the start and let the horse – and yourself – relax into the stressful situation.
  • Horses are creatures of habit. Try to think ahead to where yours might try to escape the circle. If your horse looks at a piece of dirt as he’s walking on the longe line, the next time around the circle at the trot, he’ll look at it again. Plan for how you’re going to handle it.
  • Show the horse you have and don’t try to make him what he’s not. If you show a horse that has been bred to the job – whether western pleasure or hunt seat – it will look more natural and relaxed when you ask him to do the work he’s bred to do 
  • When you ask the horse to change directions, the horse must walk. Don’t let him trot off after the turn.
  • Longeing is more of a drive than a pull. Put the pressure on the hip, not the head.
  • Judges like to see the horse working at the end of the line, not trying to come in.
  • You do the thinking for your yearling. You stay in control. He’s a baby.
  • Ask the horse first. Cluck or kiss to encourage the horse before you ask harder.
  • Fit the halter as tightly as possible to improve the look of the head.
  • A horse dropping a shoulder or looking outside will affect the score. The ideal is for the horse to be consistent.
  • Horses should look natural in longe-line classes, and the gaits shouldn’t be unnaturally slow.
  • Ideally, a horse should pick up the gaits quickly, but they’re still yearlings. If they act silly, they can still win on movement.
  • Horses should be in shape, not pushed too hard to gain weight.
  • I feed all the alfalfa a horse can eat plus some oats.
  • Pinned ears or a sour attitude can cost a horse a point or two on every maneuver. If you horse doesn’t like his job, don’t force it. Find something else for the horse  to do or turn it out for a year to grow up more.
  • My training philosophy is based on D. Wayne Kulaks’ book: Get the horse ready then find the right race.
  • The horse will tell you when he’s ready.
  • If a horse isn’t ready, don’t take him to a show just because you entered.
  • Teach a horse patience so he won’t get nippy or bored on the rail at a show.
  • Remember your yearlings and babies and it’s hard for them to learn patience.
  • Forward motion fixes 90 percent of horse problems, including not working on the end of the longe line.
  • There’s no magic cure for any horse problem. Time and training are the answers.
  • Training for longeline starts in a round pen, getting the horse going forward on verbal cues.
  • I protect legs with polos and bell boots. I work them in shallow sand.